With the Mets looking for a first base upgrade, the trade market and, more specifically, Jose Abreu may offer the best possible fit.
It’s no secret the New York Mets were displeased with the play of Dominic Smith in 2017. The organization was frustrated enough with his performance that Sandy Alderson publicly criticized his conditioning.
“Dominic’s going to have to be careful about his conditioning, certainly in the next few years if not throughout his career.”
Sandy Alderson on Dom Smith
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) November 14, 2017
And Fangraphs agrees, as they ranked the Mets first base situation as the worst first base depth chart in the MLB.
This has led the Mets to examine the market for a viable upgrade at the position. Anthony DiComo reported some free agent names the Mets could be interested in.
Players such as Eric Hosmer at the top of the free agent market represent assets that will require long term commitments for big money.
On the other side of the spectrum, recent interest in a player such as Adam Lind is more of a bargain type who may not even represent much of an upgrade over Smith.
So where should the Mets go? It just so happens that there is a trade candidate who shapes up as a perfect fit.
Could the White Sox trade Jose Abreu or Avisail Garcia?
"Everything is in play," says GM Rick Hahn.https://t.co/j1GTHS8pbb via @ChrisKuc pic.twitter.com/ud59FkF5qy
— ChicagoSports (@ChicagoSports) November 14, 2017
With Jose Abreu likely available via trade, the Mets should at least be testing the waters to gauge what the price would be for the 31-year-old former Rookie of the Year.
Since his debut in 2014, Abreu has been a model of consistency, playing 614 games and hitting 124 HR while driving in 410 RBI over the four-year span. His career slash line of .301/.359/.552 is one of the top lines at the position since 2014 to boot.
Take a look at how his 2017 numbers compared to first basemen throughout the league.
Jose Abreu among 1B in 2017:
wOBA: .377 (7th)
wRC+: 138 (4th)
WPA: 2.89 (5th)
fWAR: 4.1 (6th)
HR: 33 (8th)#Mets pic.twitter.com/LY1NIZxvzK
— Mathew Brownstein (@MBrownstein89) November 24, 2017
What makes Abreu such an effective offensive player is his ability to hit both right and left handed pitchers successfully. Below are his respective stat line splits in 2017.
Against Right Handers: .288/.339/.528
Against Left Handers: .356/.402/.631
When we examined the free agent players at first base above, we found that they either required a substantial commitment or were not enough of an upgrade. One of the most valuable parts of the Abreu ‘package’ is his contract.
Abreu signed a 6-year deal worth $68 million before the 2014 season. That contract came with an option, which Abreu exercised, that allows him to undergo arbitration for the 2018 and 2019 seasons and then become a free agent for 2020.
Therefore, Abreu effectively is under two years of team control until his age-32 season. Coincidently, that 32nd year is often considered the end of a players’ prime years.
It makes sense to bring in a right handed slugger who can hit for power and average and insert him into the middle of the lineup.
If they can get a "difference maker" like Carlos Santana, the Mets are willing to scrap the Don Smith plan: https://t.co/UgFyFCwha9
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) November 15, 2017
A free agent the Mets have been connected to is Carlos Santana, who is currently projected by MLB Trade Rumors to receive a 3-year, $45 million contract.
Santana’s production last season was not in the same ballpark as Jose Abreu. Here’s the comparison:
Abreu: 4.7 WAR .304/.354/.552 33 HR 102 RBI
Santana: 3.4 WAR .259/.363/.455 23 HR 79 RBI
Although we will not know Abreu’s exact arbitration value until it is agreed upon, we can speculate. MLB Trade Rumors currently has Abreu making $17.9 million in 2018.
As Mike Puma’s article referenced above states, if the Mets are willing to move on from Smith for a legitimate difference maker, they should be looking at Abreu.
He will not command much more money than a player like Santana and his numbers are significantly better, while being extremely consistent.
Inserting Abreu into a lineup with Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes would be a great start towards replacing the home runs that were lost from trading away Neil Walker, Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, and Lucas Duda last season.
If the Mets have determined that Smith cannot handle the first base job in 2018 and even for the future, they should be all over Jose Abreu’s availability this winter. If not, they’ll be left out in the cold.